September 18, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
The cabinet’s decision to use the Social Welfare Council (SWC) building in Kantipath as a residence for vice president is wrong on many fronts. First, our VP does not need such an expansive space to live. Second, the SWC is an important institution which has been abused by political parties for their good. If used properly, the institution can serve an important function of better streamlining works of thousands of NGOs in Nepal. Moreover, the decision also signals troubling trends in our young republic: that those in power can do whatever they feel is right.
After the overthrow of monarchy in 2008, people believed that political leaders would come to their senses and avoid filthy luxuries and greed, befitting a young republic. However, it has been the exact opposite. Abuse of state resources is at all time high. Political leaders have taken millions from state coffers in the name of medical expenses and perks for “serving” in different capacities in the government. Countless former ministers, former speakers and more than half a dozen former prime ministers have hundreds of security personnel and countless vehicles. Sadly, this has become a norm in our polity today. Worse, our leaders do not even care to follow the good examples set by leaders in this region. New Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan decided not to live in expansive PM residence and opted for a modest apartment instead. He vowed to make the PM residence a world-class research university and blasted his predecessors for abusing poor people’s money. He also reportedly said to have been inspired by simple lifestyle of Nepal’s former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Unfortunately, our own leaders do not feel the need to exercise modesty even where possible.
Nepal’s vice presidency does not have executive power. The office serves a ceremonial role. And this institution does not require such a huge space of SWC. Instead, the space could be turned into a national library or something that the people can benefit from. We can think of hundreds different ways to make the building and the big space useful to the public. Open spaces in the city are diminishing by the day. Why not make SWC premises a nice garden with an amazing library? We urge the government to rethink its decision to convert SWC premises into VP’s residence. This will go against the spirit of the kind of “socialism-oriented” society we are trying to build. Any display of unnecessary power, wealth and extravagance will be roundly ridiculed and rejected by the people. At a time when we are grappling with extreme poverty in many areas across the country, converting a public space into yet another luxury palace for those in high office would be an insult to our three-year old constitution.